One of the first things I did when I moved to LA in 2019 was paint this mural of LA drag legend Mayhem Miller at Venice Beach, on the free graffiti street art area near the skate park and just off the boardwalk (famous from films like Lords of Dogtown). I’d never painted on a beach before, such a beautiful setting. I also painted Trixie Mattel’s pink eyes on a trashcan and a quick piece of Raja before the sun set and it got too dark. Multiple LA Ru Paul’s drag race drag queens taking over the usually straight graffiti park hehe.
Mayhem saw the painting, shared it online, and recommended it to Hank & Henry, the beauty YouTuber, to use as the packaging image for their lipstick collaboration. I went to her 90’s night at The Abbey in WeHo and introduced myself, she was so nice and invited me and my friend into the VIP along with Pandora Boxx and Mariah. I hadn’t met many of the internationally famous queens in person at this point so I was fan girling my little gay heart out.
Later on Mayhem was a guest on my visual podcast ‘Painterview’, where I talk to my subjects about their lives, creativity and mental health whilst painting their portrait. She was super open about mental health issues like depression, it was a really insightful and inspiring conversation. See my IGTV at Instagram @DavidPuckArtist for the full episode, or search ‘Painterview’ on podcast platforms. Select clips posted also on my Instagram along with the finished painting.
The lipstick collaboration with Hank & Henry was one of my first paid gigs in LA, and it coming so quickly really helped me believe that I could support myself from art. I had moved to LA with not much savings, only knowing 1 person and with zero art contacts. I rented a cheap paint studio in East LA and slept in my car for the first 6 months. I had only sold a few paintings in Europe before this, but I moved to LA determined to make a living from art. I worked non-stop doing as many projects as I could find, and creating my own like painting Mayhem at Venice Beach, and thankfully almost straightaway I was managing to get at least 1 decent paid gig a month, enough to break even (not a small task considering LA prices, rent, and needing a car for murals). Although burnout eventually came on hard, in the long term this experience really encouraged me to go for the things I want, to follow my intuition, trust that it will work out and not be afraid. I moved to NYC this Summer similarly not knowing many people, but hit the ground running and hoped for the best. Hank & Henry had said they wanted many more commissions also, but they never materialized, which taught me another lesson that often projects will fall through and that’s okay, there will be more. They had a booth at DragCon LA that year so we got to meet and I saw the lipstick on sale! I had an artist table selling prints and it was my first time at DragCon so it was nice to have this there also. Hey Qween TV also shared the mural to promote Mayhem’s interview with them, which eventually led to me working with them to paint portraits of their guests for their intros. I had been watching Hey Qween for years online so this was a fun project.
So overall the message of this mural to me was to be bold and go for the things you want and believe in, and you never know what it might lead to. I’ve learnt that art careers aren’t usually one big viral break, but rather many stepping stones over a long period of time, scattering seeds every which way and trusting that some will grow.